It wasn't our fault. We were left with no choice. We did what we had to.
We saved the world – saved it repeatedly, risking our lives each time we rose to do so. And then we made sure that no pair would ever have to risk their lives again, and settled back into a peaceful retirement.
Or so we thought.
Self-sufficiency was what we talked about most then. I was barely out of Weyrlinghood myself – only three years Impressed to my blue Tenath – and I remember it seemed a grand dream. We didn't need to depend on the Holders for food – we could raise our own crops and cattle.
It was a beautiful dream, but like many dreams it shattered when brought into the harsh daylight. Whether Thread falls or no, our dragons still needed our care. Hide still needed to be washed and oiled, wings still needed to be exercised, Weyrlings and Candidates needed training. And the idea of riders setting up individual cotholds was doomed before it ever began – what gold or green would stand for her males living too far away to know when she rose? Humans might manage to live in tiny family groups, but dragons are social creatures and they needed the companionship of their own kind. We couldn't force our lifemates to survive in loneliness, and so we had to stay in the Weyrs.
It soon became clear that we could never hope to have to time to produce enough food even for our dragons, let alone for ourselves too, and so we fell back on other plans. Our dragons are magnificent creatures, but it became clear that without danger there was pitifully little we could do for the Holders in return for our food. We were not even truly needed to carry messages – not after the new machinery AIVAS had introduced to the world.
If we were to be seen to earn our keep, we needed a danger to protect the world from. So, we invented one. Yes, it was a lie - or a part-lie. What did you expect? It was that or let our dragons starve, and die out – and that was unthinkable.
We told them we were protecting Pern from more giant rocks falling. It wasn't such a hard story to spread. All we had to do was tell them that AIVAS had said that they would fall again and suddenly it became more credible. Over time though, it was a falsehood that needed more and more support. Mentioning that no rocks had been seen near Pern since that one near-disaster would have resulted in a quick curtailing of our tithes, and so we had to add to our story. Whenever a dragonrider visited a Hold, he was careful to talked about the huge stone that had nearly hit Pern only a few sevendays ago, gathering an audience of wide-eyed, awed listeners. Some riders even collected pebbles to show off.
Even so, we were ready for them to stop believing even that. We knew it was going to happen – we were not deaf to the murmured complaints. And we knew what we would have to do.
We killed no one. Let that be clear now. It was a lesson, and that was all. We simply took away the food. It was what they had been planning to do to us afterall. If people died as a result, their deaths were not our responsibility. Someone else could have fed them.
It was unfortunate that once that step had been taken, things could never be as they had been before. We needed food. The Holders would not give it voluntarily, and so we made them. It is they who were the villains, not us. We allowed them to keep some of their harvest, as long as they shared. They, on the other hand, would have had us starve to death. What kind of monsters would condemn the people who saved their planet to death by starvation? Had they not been so ungrateful, it would not have had to happen. They forced our hand.
We had to be careful after that. We had our dragons, but still if the Holders were allowed to form alliances then they might have had a chance to work us again. It could not be allowed to happen, and so we enlisted the help of the Crafts. A few were foolish enough to refuse, but most saw that dragons must be protected – especially when we repaid them from the tithes they helped us collect. A Hold that turned stubborn soon discovered it not only had no food, but that it had no Weavers, no Healers, no BeastCrafters. With the ability to exert such pressure, often it was not even necessary to wipe the rebellious Hold out completely.
The Harpers were the most useful of the Crafts. Ever the supporters of the Weyrs, they showed an amazing aptitude for gathering information, and for knowing just when a Hold was becoming restless. Their advantage came when talking to the youngsters they taught. A child knows no better to tattle on their parents, and if the adults are speaking badly of their protectors then the offending Hold can be dealt with before it ever organizes enough to become a serious problem.
It is not the world we would have wished for ourselves. We would much have much preferred that the Holders gave voluntarily than that we had to force our tithes our of them. But tell me, when they refused to tithe, and we had our lifemates to think of, what choice did we have?